The other day R needed some physiotherapy. We had had a long, hot day and a rushed drive in heavy traffic after school to make it on time for the appointment. When we got there, all flustered and five minutes late, I first had to do the paperwork before the therapist could see R, which made her even later. The lady at the window grumbled a bit because I hadn’t come fifteen minutes early to fill out the forms.
As I filled out the forms, R had to endure my usual griping about the damn paperwork, and how it was so much better in the Netherlands.
Well, it was.
I don’t remember exactly what year it began, but I emigrated to America in 1994, and for at least a few years prior, everyone had a medical card, much like a driver’s license or a credit card, which we would show when we went to any doctor, specialist or hospital. It had a code which gave the office and medical staff of said facilities access to all the patient’s information: up-to-date medical records and health insurance information.
You know what I’m talking about, my American readers: the stuff on the many, many forms we have to fill out over here every time we go to a new doctor or specialist, and every single time you go to the hospital, emergency room or urgent care clinic. Ever wondered how much of your life you’ve spent filling out the same information over and over again?
Name (first, middle, last and sometimes nickname), age, gender, address, phone numbers (home, work, mobile), primary doctor (name and phone number), profession, employer (name, address and phone number), social security number, emergency contact (name, phone number and relationship to the patient), and if it’s about a minor, then the names (first, middle, last and sometimes nicknames), age, gender, address, phone numbers (home, work, mobile), Primary doctor (name and phone number), professions, employers (name, address and phone number), social security numbers, emergency contacts (name, phone number and relationship to the patient) of both parents.
Regardless of whether it’s your first visit or you’ve had the same doctor for ten years, doctors need your health insurance information each time you come. So you have a form about your health insurance company (name, membership number, phone number, primary name on the insurance). This even though you have just given the person at the window your health insurance card, which they copied, exactly like they do every single time.
Then a page-long list that you have to check off about diseases or other afflictions you have or haven’t ever had, and if so, explain, and any afflictions that run in the family, and if so, who had it, etc.
Followed by the page where you agree to getting treatment and the promise that you won’t sue them, and finally the page where you agree that you are responsible for paying for your treatment.
Every single time. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been coming. I’ve had the same doctor here in Austin for six years now, and it’s the same routine every time.
So this is what we fill out when we go to the family doctor. This is what we fill out when we go to a hospital. This is what we fill out when we go to a chiropractor. This is what we in America fill out when we go to a gynecologist, an orthopedist, oncologist, whatever. This is what we fill out–or if we’re lucky a friend or relative fills out–when we’re bleeding all over the waiting room of a hospital.
In really state-of-the-art facilities, you can do this on a computer, like at the urgent care clinic in Austin which our family frequents when we need healthcare on weekends or on weekday evenings (since urgent care clinics and emergency rooms are our only options at those times). The first time I filled everything out on the computer, I thought, Thank goodness, finally this will be done with once and for all, at least at this clinic. But no. We have to provide the same information every single time, on the state-of-the-art computer.
And today? I went to the dentist. Which is where I took the picture of the forms I had to fill out.
I want a medical card, and I want it this century, dammit!